A Simpler Summer

I have one more week of school and then I’m home for the summer.

Nine weeks, with both kids.

I don’t think there is a way for me to accurately convey how terrified I am.

It’s kind of embarrassing actually, how scared I am of spending nine weeks with my kids. The prospect of being alone with them didn’t used to inspire this kind of fear, but at their current ages they present a combination of challenges that really terrify me.

I’ve enrolled my daughter in some half day camps but they are each only four days long and they end at 1pm. My daughter will be home just in time for my son’s nap. There will be no breaks this summer.

I am trying to figure out how and when I’ll work out. I’m trying to figure out how and when I’ll plan for next year. I’m trying to figure out how and when I’ll get things done.

Yes, I’m terrified, but I’m also harboring a considerable amount of hope. It’s tenuous, and slips easily from my grasp, but I gather it up again at the end of each day and I’m getting better at keeping it in place.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I need for this summer to feel successful. I realized pretty quickly that I need to simplify.

Everything.

Everything needs to be simpler.

It’s starting with our stuff. The Great Purge of 2015 rid of us many unnecessary items, but the job is not complete. I finally feel like I can manage all of our stuff (which is a massive improvement), but I’m coming to realize that it still takes way too long for me to manage it. I spend a lot of my time with my kids cleaning up after them and I don’t want our days to be dictated by our things in that way. If I want to keep the house free of debris, without always bending down to pick something up, we have to have a lot less stuff.

I’ve been very mindful of what I’m perpetually picking up and I have a good idea of what we need to get rid of. The stuffed animal collection will be cut in half (I’ve already done that twice in past purges but holy shit we still have a lot of stuffed animals). The bins full of random toys will be reduced from three to one; the same will be done to my son’s boxes of board books. I’ve dismantled our (considerable) DVD collection, only keeping the kids movies that aren’t readily accessible on Net.flix (ahem, Dis.ney). Only about one tenth of my daughter’s library will remain in her room: a (very) small portion will migrate to her brother’s room and one small box will go into storage to be rotated out but most of her books will be getting the boot.

More of my clothes will go, and more of my books. We moved my husband’s LP collection to a shelving unit we bought not long ago and put his turn table above the television so his music shelf can go. We already moved what was left of my daughter’s toys into the small shelves under her semi-loft bed and got rid that big piece of furniture. The DVD stand is gone and when my daughter’s bookshelf is donated we’ll have gotten rid of four considerably sized pieces of furniture. Nothing is coming in to take their places.

When we purged in January of this year I never thought we’d be doing such a drastic follow up so soon, but this definitely feels right. Before I got rid of stuff because I wanted to, now I’m doing it because I need to. I won’t survive this summer if things continue this way. I need space in my heart and mind to just be, and I won’t have that when there is shit everywhere.

I want this summer to be simple. I want it to be about walking to the park with lunch ready in my backpack, sitting in the living room building with blocks, constructing forts under my daughter’s bed, wrapping play silks around our shoulders and becoming someone else.

I want this summer to be screen-free. And I want to keep my sanity.

We need this. All four of us. We need to find ourselves again, because something deep within us has been lost to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

I have thought a lot about what I want, and need, to be happy, but I still struggle to pin it down. It seems I’m pretty good at identifying what I don’t want, but I’m shit at recognizing what will actually make me happy. So many of my parenting decisions have been based on negatives I’m trying to avoid, not on positives I want to embrace. For the first time I think I’m finally seeing a clearer picture of what I want our family life to look like. And I think this summer just might be our opportunity to build its foundation.

Sure I’m terrified, but I also have some serious aspirations. I appreciate this time I have with my children, and I’m grateful for the professional guidance I’ll have at my disposable. I do think that I can do this, that we can do this.

In one week I’ll start to find out.

What do you want this summer to look like? 

17 Comments

  1. I guess summer is not too different from the rest of the year for us right now, since my kids will still be in daycare and I’ll still be at work. We have lots of travel and family visits coming up, too, which will keep us from making any kind of new household routine.
    Your plans sound really lovely. I feel relaxed just reading about the three of you just playing all day! Of course there will be the inherent challenges of caring for both of your kids all day (and believe me, my first emotion would be terror also!),but I think if you let go of all the “shoulds” and just BE, it may go OK.

    1. I’m definitely trying to let go of the “shoulds.” My first inclination this summer was to just have us going all over the place and I renewed a few of our memberships to make sure we’d have places to be. But now I’m thinking we’ll only go places here and there on the weekends, mostly to give my husband a break. I think most of the time we’ll just hang out at parks and playgrounds, maybe hit up the beach when it’s not too cold. I think it will be really nice.

      1. I actually do better with the kids when I have a plan to get out of the house…but iI’m learning that its better when I make that plan in the morning, after assessing energy/weather/mood rather than planning way ahead and sticking to it no matter what “we’re going to have fun dammit!” Some days are lazy 3 hours at the park digging in the dirt days while others may be go-go-go to three different activities days.

        1. I do MUCH better when I have a plan to get out of the house. The idea of staying home all day makes me crazy, and honestly I think my son would go crazy being home all day too. But my daughter likes to be home so I’m trying to balance the days we go out with days we stay home, and my son still needs a nap in the afternoon (graciasajesus) so we’ll have to be home then.

  2. Oooh! I totally love this! It’s so easy to make parenting decisions about what you DO don’t instead of what you DO want in your lives. Charlie and I were debating buying a parks pass this summer for unlimited access to the local state park. I was hemming and hawing about the cost ($65), but really, I want to be WAY more screen free, and phones don’t work out there, so that would be a way to naturally encourage less screen time and more outdoor swimming and hiking time just 5 minutes from town. Consider me sold. 🙂

    Also, I just did another toy purge, and EVERY SINGLE TIME I suddenly realize how much of my daily annoyance and stress is from picking up misc. toys a million times a week. Definitely worth it to continually cull through those.

    I look forward to hearing more about your simpler summer!

    1. The park pass sounds AMAZING. I’m glad you invested in that. I’m sure you’ll have a ton of fun out there.

      I have been contemplating turning off my wifi while I’m home but then I realized my phone will still have service. I need to just put my phone somewhere high where I don’t see it but can still hear it if it rings (we don’t have a land line, so I can’t just turn it off or bury it somewhere–I might miss a call in an emergency). We already don’t watch any TV with the kids but we have a few VTech “learning” toys that have screens and while they never use them for more than 5-10 minutes a day (then they lose interest) it’s still something I want to dispense with. I used to let my daughter read storybooks on my iPad when I worked out but I don’t want to do that this summer, so I’m trying to figure out what I can have her do while I’m on the elliptical a few times a week. I’m hoping our play therapist has some suggestions.

  3. Use your backyard for daughter to be home not in the house while son sleeps. Encourage her in making “mousehouse/fairy-pixie houses” sorts of things outside. Encourages scrap and inventive material uses! Art project. Use monitor if needed to hear when son wakes up.

    Absolutely out of the house to somewhere else as often as possible. Make a list of possible places to go so you do not need to think each morning before looking out the window and ‘getting out of Dodge’. List every playground and Rec area near you! (With address/street location in smart phone) so no getting lost.

    You might also be able to do SF public transit exploring but that depends on son/stroller/equipment issues that I do not know.

    1. I am working on my back yard so we can spend lots of time out there. Right now it looks like Armageddon out there, but after a few weeks of working I think it will be okay for the kids to play in (we have a serious blackberry bush problem and those things are dangerous!)

  4. PS: SUPER DUPER PROUD OF YOU for what you already un-owned and that now you are doing another sweep. It takes many sweeps of this nature and each time it gets refined down and becomes clearer and easier. SO IMPRESSED!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Nine weeks? Wow. You guys have a long summer break. It just reminded me how much longer we have to put up with winter!! lol

    Hoping your summer is wonderful. Or simply, better than you expect. I certainly know that you will not be the only mother looking at the next nine weeks with a degree of dread!

    1. I just recounted and it’s actually 8 weeks. That actually makes me breathe a little easier.

      We’re in school 180 days. Is that about what they do in NZ? I’m always curious what the school year looks like in other parts of the world.

      It’s crazy how many parents dread the summer right? Just goes to show that there is a real disparity between what is said about parenthood and how people actually feel about it. A HUGE disparity.

  6. All of this purge and get rid of unnecessary furniture had me clapping my hands. It isn’t hey lets be minimal it is hey lets be clutter free and tidy. Hells yeah!! I need to do a purge of magazines. Let’s be honest after 12 months I don’t read them so go donate them to a medical centre for other people to pore over. I don’t need them!!

    I did a super purge of clothes and now it is winter here (bloody hell and it is darn freezing) I am all where are my winter clothes so I need to purchase a few standard items to rotate for the next few months.

    I don’t know if you realise but you sounded so much more at peace with your decision to let go of stuff. I see a huge improvement on six months ago.

    Kicking arse lady.

    ps it will be stressful for 9 weeks I totally get that but I think the first few will be harder than the middle and then the last one you will be all i need to get back to work.

    1. I’m about to do a super purge of my clothes, now that we’re safely out of winter here, but our climate is so strange, it doesn’t vary much and we need to wear sweaters all summer long (or at least have them with me, just in case) so there is no definite time when you can put away the pants and get out the skirts and shorts. Still, I was very conscious of what I was wearing, and more importantly what I was NOT wearing, during the summer and I have a lot to get rid of now that I’m not working. I’ll do a BIG purge of my clothes now and my daughter’s right before school starts. She’ll wear princess nightgowns all summer long and I’m fine with that. It means I don’t have to buy her any shorts or tops. 😉

  7. I have thought a lot about this summer and this is our plan. Matthew has camp every other week M-F from 9-12. Those weeks, I focus on errands and running outside with Bryson. Then, the weeks that there is no camp, each day (before naps) is spent doing something fun for and with the kids. I am not the mom who puts her kids in the gym daycare so I can work out. Uh uh. Maybe once a week, but I just don’t see me doing that too often. Our camp-free weeks will be filled with the pool, parks, the zoo, the Y pool on rainy days, and festivals.

    We have cut screen time drastically now that nice weather is here. They rarely watch it even when I’m showering. They play together constantly and after lunch, we play outside until naps. This feels so good! We totally use the tv after baths to wind down, laying in bed together before books and singing. But daytime tv is virtually a thing of the past.

    I’m excited for summer! I wasn’t, but quickly realized that summer is my best time as a mom. I own this job during the summer months!

    1. Your summer sounds amazing. I wish it were warm enough here to do more in the water. Of course, we have no water here right now so I guess I don’t want it to be warm…

      I will definitely be taking my kids on lots of adventures this summer. But I also want us to be home some, because I’m not very comfortable doing that and I worry I take my kids out to excess (especially my daughter who really needs her time at home). I don’t know, maybe the time my son is sleeping will be enough “at home/down time” for my daughter. Ultimately I want to be responsive to my kids needs, instead of imposing my wants on them (as I do regularly).

  8. I like these plans. It’s totally understandable to be anxious about this huge expanse of time looming – try to break it up into chunks. Your commenters have given some great advice and echoed kudos as to your approach. You’re doing great!

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